How to Communicate More Effectively On the Radio

 In Blog

More than any other medium, radio relies on the spoken word.  Television, newspapers, movies, and the web are in part reliant on language, but unlike the others, radio relies 100% on the spoken word for communication with our audience.  Here are some ideas for improving communication on a dominant and pervasive medium, our much beloved and bemoaned radio.

 Hot vs. Not Hot Words
The language we use to describe things and events in our lives can dramatically change the way listeners respond to what we say.  Saying a new restaurant is good isn’t as powerful as saying the new restaurant is amazing from the first bite of appetizer to the last drop of espresso.
Using strong descriptors when writing commercial copy or telling a story impacts how the audience responds to what you say. Teasing “The Hollywood News is next” isn’t nearly as strong at grabbing the audience’s attention as “You’ll never guess where Justin Bieber is headed now…This unbelievable story is next on Hollywood News. “
After music, radio audiences have consistently said the thing they like best on radio (or any of the other mediums) is a good story.  Instead of ending breaksand commercials with “and visit for all the details…” try using “check out for the rest of the story” or “to find out how easy it is to win…”

Stories are more interesting for listeners than “details.”  Details are great for contracts, but they are boring, and they sound boring.  We as an industry should ban the word.  Here’s a challenge: listen to your radio station for a couple hours and count the number of times you hear the word “details.”  I’ve counted up to 15 uses of the word in 60 minutes on one station.
Less Is More
When doing repetitive content like time checks and weather, using fewer words is better.  As an industry, we should be the best at this.
It’s time to go digital, like the rest of the industrialized world. Most of the world moved onto digital time clocks in the 1990s, but in radio we are still wed to analog time checks mostly out of habit.  “15 minutes before 9 o’clock” is a very long way of saying “eight forty five.” 
The same is true for numbers and lists, both of which present a distinct disadvantage for radio over other media that have visual backups.  A good rule to keep in mind: any list with over three elements should be trimmed.  When talking about the “Top Three…” of anything, always start at the bottom and work your way up to number one, not the reverse.  This creates more interest than is created when you shoot your wad with the number one item and then reveal numbers two and three, which is closer to foreplay after the fact.
Numbers and stats are the enemy of TSL. Radio listeners are giving, on average, 10-20% of their conscious mind to you and most listeners suck at math.  The more you can convert percentages and other numeric data into descriptors like “90 percent” into “most” or “12%” into “a small percentage of,” the better.  When it comes to lists and numbers on the radio, less is definitely more.
If you have a list of items or numbers you think your audience would like to know more about, they make great Facebook cross-promotes.  Give the top three over the air and push listeners to your Facebook or Twitter account for more.  Just try not to tell them you “have all rest of the details on Twitter.”
Pronouns / The Enemy of Cume

TV can get away with pronoun usage.  Television has a big picture of the celebrity on the screen accompanying the story. In radio, we don’t have the visual support, so in radio we need to use the celeb’s name whenever we can, instead calling her “her” and “she,” to help keep the our second-by-second cume in the loop.

A news story about Angelina Jolie may perk up some ears, but a story about a woman who decided on a double mastectomy likely perks up more.  So if your Hollywood News story leads with Angelina Jolie’s decision, and the five minute discussion references her name only at the beginning of the story and then in 3rd person pronoun (“her”, “she”), you may be keeping some of your audience needlessly in the dark about who exactly you are talking about.
This concept also comes in handy with the words “our” and “us.”  Any time those words are used to describe your radio station, you are potentially passing up on a branding opportunity.  Try dropping those pronouns in favor of “YOUR STATION NAME and FREQUENCY.”

Even in PPM markets, repeating the station name and frequency is important.  It may be that PPM makes getting credit for listening less dependent on this type of repetition, but we still need our fans to remember not only our name, but our address when they talk about our radio station with their friends.  It’s much easier to get new listeners from our P1s when they can easily tell their friends not only the name of the station or show, but also the frequency on the dial. 

The more listeners hear your name, the more likely they are to remember.  Imagine you meet two people at a party, both equal in most respects, except that one is shy and rarely mentions their name, and the other is an egomaniac and mentions their name multiple times.  A week later you are going to remember the egomaniac’s name more even though you may like the shy person better.

Using fewer pronouns can be awkward, at first.  With practice, you will find it easy, and you will be a much more effective communicator on the radio and also in person.  It’s all part of the Art of Repetition.
The Art of Repetition
This art is also very effective for your afternoon or morning drive traffic reporter.  A reporter who breaks news of a major traffic blockage and only references the location of the blockage at the beginning of the break is not going to be as effective as a traffic reporter who uses the art of repetition to make sure the semi-conscious listener gets it:
“At 490 and 90 there is one half hour slow down avoid THIS area completely, there are several police and emergency vehicles at THIS LOCATION working on clearing THIS horrendous accident.”


“At 490 and 90, there is a one half hour show down so avoid 490 and 90 completely.  Police and emergency vehicles are at 490 and 90 now working on clearing this 30 minute delay.”

About_Stan2.jpgWritten by Stan Main. Learn more about Stan here.

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